WEST BEND - Drivers in the vicinity of the shared Kossuth-Humboldt County line Friday may have been caught in traffic behind dozens of tractors.
But this wasn't about farm work. It was the seventh annual Hawkeye FFA Alumni Tractor Ride.
The event, which kicked off West Bend's Independence Day celebration this weekend, is a fundraiser for local FFA organizations.
- Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Louie Moritz, left, of Humboldt, talks with his son, Dave Moritz, of Wilton, before they both head off on the annual FFA alumni tractor ride in West Bend Friday. Both father and son have participated in the ride for the past five years. The fundraiser for FFA programs starts and ends in West Bend.
"We go through Bode and take a morning break there," Brian Bormann, of West Bend, the event's coordinator, said. "Then we'll be having a noon lunch in Gilmore City. From there we'll head to Rolfe and then back to West Bend."
In all, Bormann said the trip takes about eight hours and travels approximately 65 miles.
Everyone involved rides their own tractor.
On Friday, about 70 people signed up for the drive, but Bormann said that number was likely to increase.
"We've had between 90 and 100 compete in some years," he said.
Bormann said it's not unusual to see several families riding together in the event.
One of those families included Louie Moritz, of Humboldt, and his son, Dave Moritz, of Wilton.
They've been riding their tractors in the fundraiser for five years.
"I love seeing all the people every year," Louie Moritz said. "It's like a big family reunion."
Despite the cloudy skies and possibility of rain, Louie Moritz wasn't concerned.
"We have rain ponchos in case it starts up," he said. "At least it's not really hot out."
Fred Hodgell, of Gilmore City, was driving his Oliver Super 88 Diesel tractor for the first time in the ride, although he's been participating ever since the event was started.
"I love to look at the tractors and talk to the people," Hodgell said. "And I get to drive my new tractor."
Lloyd Thilges, of West Bend, said he's also been participating in the ride for five years.
"You see all the old tractors and it brings back memories of when you were a kid, helping out your dad on the farm," he said. "It's just fun getting together with all these people for awhile."
Not everyone in this year's fundraiser was a veteran, though. Graydon Schmidt, 16, and his brother Garret Schmidt, 12, of West Bend, were riding their tractors for the first time.
"It was kind of chilly riding here," Graydon Schmidt said after he and his brother stopped in Bode. "We had to play catchup for awhile because we lost the group we were supposed to be with."
There were a few unexpected moments, but the Schmidt brothers said they enjoyed the ride.
"It's great seeing all the old tractors and meeting all the people," Graydon Schmidt said.
Bormann said he thinks it's great that the boys are involved in the ride.
"People pass on their heritage so the younger people know about it," he said. "I've seen three-generation families in the race before."